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Leadership Training During the 2020 Pandemic

Leadership Training 2021

January 28, 2021

The year 2020 presented us with many challenges but also gave us quite a lot to reflect on and provided us with many opportunities. Many companies around the U.S. had to let go of their employees and halted their leadership development programs to adjust themselves to the “new normal.” However, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Bankers Trust went forward with their development programs virtually with full steam, as they knew these programs were needed in 2020 more than ever before.

Investing in Leadership

The journey of leadership is one that never stops. Organizations that invest in employees tend to easily evolve, adapt and turn challenges into opportunities and thrive in the world. During the pandemic, companies like Bankers Trust and organizations like The Partnership continued to provide leadership training to employees and community members. Bankers Trust continued its development program, Leadership Academy, to help employees highlight and improve their leadership skills. Bankers Trust also continued its relationship with The Partnership to support the DSM Fellowship Program. The DSM Fellowship is a two-year program, where companies in Greater Des Moines (DSM) can send employees for professional development. The fellows receive high exposure and mentoring through executives in the area. The Fellows also get the chance to immerse themselves in the local culture through community engagement opportunities.

DSM Fellowship Program

Embracing Virtual Learning

Due to the pandemic, the training program looked slightly different than in the past. During this lockdown, we have accepted that the future of how we communicate is mostly virtual. However, building strong relationships can be challenging when communicating virtually. Business professionals can still be successful if they are able to harness their virtual presence to connect with remote audiences to influence and inspire, through the virtual divide. One of the classes provided by the Fellowship program focused on how to improve our virtual presence. This training was provided by Tero International and focused on how to best present yourself in front of a camera, while being aware of your surroundings and communicating with intention and impact.

Focusing on DEI

Any leadership program would be incomplete without diversity training. Leaders will be able to better translate what they learn if they understand diversity, racial equity and inclusion. The year 2020 will live on in the history as a year that America embraced Black Lives Matter as a movement. In October 2020, the Fellowship invited Teree Caldwell-Johnson, CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood, to speak about “One Economy: Building Opportunity for All.” She shared an action plan focused on eliminating the historical racial wealth divide between races in Polk County. Since it has not even been 60 years since the end of legal segregation, it is beyond doubt that the harmful effects of history still live on in our institutions and within ourselves. Through the report that Teree presented, it was made even more evident of the existing racial disparity in DSM. She called upon the community to take action through intentional efforts to reduce disparities, especially for the black population in our community.

In the year 2020, we all rose to the challenge, and together we grew, evolved and moved forward. It gave us the opportunity to slow down, pause and do some deep thinking around our commitments and core values. The way communities surged into action to support the Black Lives Matter movement during the pandemic was an example that growth can happen in any environment. As we move forward, we can hope that more companies and organizations continue to invest in their employees and communities, as Bankers Trust and the The Partnership have, and continue the active engagement around promoting diversity, racial equity and inclusion.

Watch the video below to see a recent interview with me on the DSM Fellowship Program:


The DSM Fellowship program is the preeminent professional development initiative attracting, developing and retaining a diverse community of top-tier graduates to Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.

Abhineu Mathema

Abhineu Mathema is a global banking trade officer with Bankers Trust since 2017. She was born in Nepal and moved to Des Moines in 2012. She graduated from Luther College in 2016 with bachelor's in management and international studies. She also volunteers for International Traders of Iowa, a nonprofit organization.